Last evening we walked about 2 KM to an orphanage that houses orphans and children of prisoners. Rev. Glory is the second oldest of four brothers, and All four brothers are in ministry. His oldest brother, Judson, runs this special orphanage. The property was given to Rev. Glory’s father, Pastor Joseph, over 15 years ago. Pastor Joseph has been in ministry for over 40 years. He is well known and respected throughout the area. So when an “upper class” Hindu was diagnosed with leprosy and rejected by his family members, he had no place to live. This Hindu man came from a wealthy family and when it came time for family property to be divided, he was given this property. He donated the property to Pastor Joseph for the orphanage and for the past 15 years he has lived there, been cared for by the staff, and in turn offers his services as their security guard. He seemed like he was grandfather figure for all the children. He was well loved, and it was obvious that he loved the children. They have about 50 children in the orphanage.
We arrived around 7:30 PM. The walk to the orphanage was very interesting. EVERYONE from the village came out to see us. We greeted each person as we walked by on the sometimes paved, rutted road. It was a very rural road so the traffic was very light, which was a relief, as it is hard to not walk in the middle of the road where it generally is the smoothest. We constantly were reminding each other to “stay left”, and this especially became more important as the sun went down and it became dark. The main traffic was by bicyclers and they seemed to come out from the dark with no warning whatever. Of course they have no lights, reflectors, or anything on their bikes or clothes to make them more visible.
There are Hindu temples all over. In the short 2 KM walk to the orphanage, we passed two separate Hindu temples. Each temple usually has two buildings – one rather large, for the higher caste people, and a much smaller one for the lower caste people. Although the “caste system” is officially outlawed in India, it is still very much a part of the culture.
We arrived at the orphanage to children seated in rows on a concrete slab under a metal roof. The children quickly jumped up and started greeting us. They were by far the most receptive audience we have encountered yet! They were filled with smiles, wanted to shake our hands, and basically swarmed all around us. Paul said he felt like a movie star!
First a boy and girl did a “Christmas Dance” for us. Some of the lyrics were in English, but it was a tune I was not familiar with. Then eight girls performed a special local dance for us. Rev. Glory’s niece taught the girls the dance, and it was lovely. They used two decorated foot-long sticks, similar to the sticks used by the men in the native village, to click together in rhythm. The dance was beautifully choreographed and of course the girls in the peach-colored saris were gorgeous! It amazes me how lovely and elegant the women always look, regardless of the heat, dirt, or primitive conditions.
After their performances for us, we then taught them “Praise Ye the Lord” and “Shake a Neighbor’s Hand”. They absolutely loved both songs! They clapped, did “high 5’s”, smiled, laughed, and thoroughly had a joyous time. We next played some games with tarps and balloons. They had a ball! They bounced the balloons, shook the tarps, and laughed and laughed! Then everyone blew up a balloon and on the count of “3” stomped on their balloons to see who could pop their balloon first. I spoke with the children about the Wings Ministry and how Jesus loves each of us, no matter what, and that we were to also love everyone. Gifts of pencils, crosses and candy were given to all present. As we left the children, they were sitting down to a special meal, hosted by Wings. We were treated to a delicious meal by Rev. Glory’s sister-in-law, which was a nice surprise since it was late and we were hungry. The hospitality of everyone is so amazing. We feel welcome wherever we go.
The walk home was fairly uneventful except it was very dark and the road very uneven which made for careful navigation and calls of “stay left” when a hard to see cyclist rode by. Fortunately, Rita and Cathy had gone for a walk in the village that morning because Rita quickly realized we had missed our turn when we came to a temple they had seen earlier. We turned back, found the correct road and made our way back to the compound, affectionately coming to be known as “Home Sweet Home” (Rev. Glory had driven over with the bags of supplies so he was not with us). Our guardian angels were watching out for us!
Tuesday Morning Training for Pastors in Prison Ministry 10 men and 9 women were present
We started the workshop in prayer and then by distributing gifts to everyone present. Zucchini seeds were given out, and they were not familiar with zucchini. It was fun and interesting trying to describe this vegetable with them and how to eat and prepare it. We also gave a candy to each person and the women who were present were given hair accessories in colors to match their gorgeous saris.
Paul started by reading Mathew 25: 40. He shared about being a chaplain and the need to look at each person as one of Christ’s children. We show we are disciples of Jesus by showing love to all people. We need to not only feed, clothe, and visit those in prison, but we need to help their families as well.
Shelly shared that she had worked in at least 3 prisons the past five years in ecumenical faith-based programs. Some of the men she worked with came to faith-based programs to gain extra good time, and because they came to the programs, they change their lives because the change comes from within and from God. She also teaches at the women’s prison and the
juvenile prisons. Her experience is that faith based programs really work and that en/women who choose to attend faith based programs usually were on their best behavior.
She also has worked as a nurse in the prison system. There she saw all inmates – not just those on their best behavior. She said that if you understand the conditions the inmates have to live under, it will make their work easier in the prison system. There often is a real struggle – staff often mistrusting, and inmates often do not get along with each other. There is also often a lot of fear and she has seen people attack each other. Often they came into the medical area simply for safety reasons.
She has seen men cry and tell them how lonely they are. She has witnessed a lot of violence. She lost her job at one point because she spoke out about that violence. She often found conditions that were horrible, a high disease rate because of the unsanitary conditions, and even if people go into prison and are healthy, the chance of picking up a disease is very common. Since 98% of inmates are there for drug/alcohol abuse, their health is often already compromised.
Often inmates have little hope. They usually don’t respect people of authority because they are often mistreated by those in authority. However you can support them and their families will be most certainly appreciated. If you can teach the families about the love of Jesus, maybe they can share that love with their imprisoned loved one. Someone has to break the cycle of crime. If you bring them the hope of Jesus, then you are also helping the families so the families and also the inmate have the support.
Many inmates in prison came to know Christ, but then they went home to families who did not know Christ.
John 13:34-35. The answer is clear that if you are a disciple of Jesus you will love one another. We need to love the families of prisoners and those who are in prison. We have also come to learn from you. You may be dealing with other issues that are involved in working in the prison. We want to learn from each other.
Questions from the pastors to us:
- Is there a possibility of being attacked because you are preaching about Jesus.
- Why might they attack us? They usually aren’t “attacking us” but sharing their anger because of past hurts. We try to build trust and relationships. Once relationships are established, we feel much safer and feel that other inmates will protect us.
- What happens to the children of prisoners when they have no one to care for them? Here in India, an option is to bring them to the orphanages for prisoner’s children run by Rev. Glory and his ministry.
- When inmates come out of prison and they have changed their ways, how can we help them? Skills are often taught in prison. Look at the abilities of the inmate to help them find a job. Look at success stories. How did they get out of prison and stay out? Try to learn from positive examples.
Our questions to them:
- How frequently do you visit in prison? Monthly – quarterly – weekly – this was only 5 years back, but the past 5 years it has become very strict and difficult to get into the prisons.
- At least 50% of the attenders know someone in prison.
- Are their probation/parole requirements for inmates in India? The authorities will monitor the released inmate
until the case clears.
- When they visit, how long can they visit? It all depends on the officials and the jail – 1,2, hour, or several hours. They may be allowed to do a worship service at the local jail, but it all depends on the officials.
- Are there separate women’s prison?
The final message we left with them is that we all need to do what we can as people of God. Our confidence is not in the authorities or the government, but in God!
In His love,